Preached at St. Kilian Parish on December 14, 2019 at the 4:00pm and 5:30pm Masses
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and we celebrate by lighting the pink can dle of the Advent wreath, although the color is officially called rose. An easy way to remember this is to remember that Jesus rose from the dead, he did not pink from the dead! It’s one of my favorite Catholic jokes and I only get to use it twice a year. We have the option to wear rose colored vestments on this day, and they have them at Holy Sepulcher, but we don’t have them here at St. Kilian’s, so we wear the more traditional purple. Just to give you an idea of what it would look like, underneath my vestments I am wearing a pink, or rose, colored shirt.
We make this one-week switch from purple to rose because rose represents joy, and joy is the theme of the Third Week of Advent. You will notice in the first reading that Isaiah, writing about 750 years before Jesus, uses the words joy, joyful, and rejoice as he describes all the great miracles that will happen when the Day of the Lord comes, and in the gospel that Matthew describes how while John the Baptist is in prison he is brought word that the very miracles that Isaiah had written about described are being done by Jesus: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the dead are raised. It is the Day of the Lord! It is a day of great joy! So, we wear pink today, or at least I do, to celebrate the joy of the Day of the Lord.
It is such a great day of joy that not only do I have my pink (or rose) shirt on, I also wore my pink pants today! I wore these pants to work one day and many people smiled or laughed as I walked across the Clemente Bridge into town. Some even took pictures of me and my pants! I can’t wait to be shopping later so that I can spread some joy with my outfit at Walmart and Target. It’s hard to be sad or angry around pink. That’s why some football teams paint the visiting locker rooms pink, to take the edge off the other team. Many prison cells are painted pink to keep the inmates, especially violent ones, calm.
Our faith is meant to be pink. It should stand out. Others should recognize that there is a certain something about us that is different. That we have something that they want but don’t have. Something everyone is searching for in their lives. That certain something is what we celebrate on this Third Sunday of Advent – joy.
The dictionary describes joy as a feeling of great happiness. In 2013 the Pirates played their first playoff game in over 20 years, and I was at PNC Park for that Wild Card game against the Reds. It was the best sporting event I have ever attended in my life. The entire game was like one big party and when it was over the whole place exploded in celebration. We all had a feeling of great happiness, but it was not joy. Joy is much more than great happiness.
The following year I was at the Wild Card game when the Pirates lost to the Giants 8-0, and the year after that when they lost to the Cubs 4-0, and don’t even talk to me about what has happened to the team since then. The happiness is long gone. When we have joy it remains with us even when things go wrong or don’t go as planned in our lives. Being joyful does not mean that we are happy all the time, bad things happen that will make us unhappy – we lose a loved one and we mourn, we receive a bad diagnosis at the doctor and we are sad, we have marital or family problems and we get upset, we lose a job and we are angry. But we can still have joy during these bad times because being joyful is about looking at life with the eyes of faith. Even though we cry when we experience loss, we will still have joy because by our faith we know that the Lord, the same Lord that in today’s gospel made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk, and even raised the dead to life, is with us through it all and has a plan for us and our lives. The joy that comes through faith is everlasting.
Everyone is looking for joy in their lives. I was browsing the People Magazine’s People of the Year issue as I was waiting in line at the store this past week and Taylor Swift was selected as one of the winners, and her article was titled “The Year I Found My True Joy.” In the article she talks about all the things she did or the changes she made in her life that brought her joy. What Taylor Swift was describing in the article was the great happiness she found and not joy.
Joy is not something we find. Joy is not something we achieve or attain. Joy is not the result of our successes or a response to our accomplishments. If I do this thing, I will have joy. If I make this one change in my life, I will have joy. If I win the lottery, I will have joy. As we see so often, winning the lottery or achieving our dreams often brings only temporary happiness and not joy. We search for joy inside of us, but joy comes from outside of us. Joy is the gift we receive when we live lives of faith. Joy is the evidence that we are allowing God to work in our lives. Joy is the feeling we get when we do, not for ourselves, but for others, and for God. Doing God’s will for our lives is what brings joy.
It is so hard to have joy during the Christmas season because we are so busy trying to make joy. There are gifts to be bought, visits to be made, parties to attend, and dinners to prepare. These are all good things. Jesus himself received gifts at his birth, people visited him, and I’m sure Mary and Joseph had a party with food afterward. These things probably made them happy, but what brought them joy was living lives of faith by doing the will of the Heavenly Father.
Joy is a choice we make, to make each day a Day of the Lord, to live a life of faith, knowing that whatever happens to us, good or bad, happens with our Lord with us. Our lives and our Christmas season do not need to be perfect to be filled with joy. They just need to be filled with the Lord, the same Lord who made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and who raised the dead to life again. As we receive our gifts this Christmas, may we also receive the gift of joy that comes through faith, and as we give gifts this Christmas, may we share the gifts of joy and faith with others.
Our faith is what brings us joy, and our faith leads to the everlasting joy of heaven.
Rejoice and be glad!